The Underdog Company — a personal project that began during my undergraduate studies at Georgia Southern University — has developed into a fully operational lifestyle apparel brand with a national consumer base. What started as a conversation in my living room with my best friend circa 2009 has become a means to share tokens of wisdom, as well as an expression of my personal style with people I’ve never met. It’s been four years of trial and error, and the usual tango between ups and downs. I learned a lot of lessons the hard way, but those obstacles and failures challenged me to think and perform on a higher level. The mishaps and lows helped refine my character, and the successes gave me the confidence and incentive I needed to keep pushing myself to be a stronger artist, designer and business owner. The wise say experience is the best teacher and I endorse that statement. Some of the lessons I’ve learned in Entrepreneurial Experiences 101 are:
It’s likely that no one will care about what you’re doing in the beginning except you. Don’t get discouraged. “Build it and they will come.”
There’s a great chance you won’t earn profits within the first few years of entrepreneurship. A lack of profit doesn’t indicate failure. The main focus should be perfecting your craft.
Entrepreneurship is NOT just a hobby. If you’re serious about business, you’ll have to treat it as a job and be consistent. You have to take it seriously in order for others to do so.
[For Brands:] Things will almost always never turn out right the first time. I’ve learned recently that even if you get samples, there’s always a chance things will go left. Plan as best you can. Do your research. Learn to think on your feet and recover as quickly as possible.
A lot of the people you expect to support you (even if it’s a subconscious thing), simply will not. Don’t take it personally.
You start to fail the minute you stop having fun or perceive your venture as failing. Perception is everything; what you believe is exactly what will come to be. Adjust your thinking.
Good quality & great customer service are the most valuable marketing tools you have. Treat supporters like family, not transactions. Invest in quality, even if it requires sacrifice. That kind of sacrifice will always be worth it.
You can’t do it all yourself. Many people, myself included, tend to try and play every position on the team. It may be feasible to do it all yourself in the beginning, but don’t be too prideful to ask for help when things become overwhelming. Collaboration and shared responsibility could be the difference between growth and stagnancy.
Remember why you started. Businesses go through stages of instability & discomfort just like people do. Remembering why you love what you do will help you make it through those rough patches.
Don’t hide in your comfort zone. Growth spurts can be rough because sometimes you’re too big to run small and too small to run big. However, nothing great comes from a lifetime of comfort and caution. It’s okay to take risks. It’s the only way to actually progress. Greatness is a product of risk, recovery and wisdom; it does not exist in your little box of comfort.
Never, ever quit. Every business has rough patches. You’re either in or you’re out. Do understand that quitting is also a sacrifice & will often cause grief more burdensome than finding a solution would.
--- Jessica Rycheal